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NBA AM: Thornwell Embracing Moment In Summer League

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In the NBA, having relationships with teammates off the court can be just as important as on.

Luckily for Sindarius Thornwell, he’s already found somebody to mess around with outside of the four lines.

“I already adopted a son,” Thornwell joked with reporters at the Summer League in Las Vegas. “Jawun Evans. That’s my little man right now, so I’m just showing my son the ropes.”

The Los Angeles Clippers, who didn’t have a selection coming into this year’s NBA Draft, nabbed both Thornwell and Evans in the second round.

Lacking depth and youth going into the event, owner Steve Ballmer opened up the checkbook for his vice president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank and paid for both picks. Evans was taken 39th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers and acquired for cash considerations.

Following that up, the Clippers purchased the Milwaukee Bucks’ number 48 pick for $2.5 million to select Thornwell.

“What we identified early on is we wanted to add tough, competitive, hard-playing, high basketball-IQ players to complement our team,” Frank said after the draft.

That’s exactly what they’re getting in these two young players. Evans, who our own Michael Scotto spoke with before the event, is a gritty, old school type of point guard with perhaps the most aggression in this class.

Similar to his “son” when it comes to toughness, Thornwell boasts a natural ability to defend the basketball, drive to the lane and out-muscle his competition. These skills were on display in the NCAA Tournament as the South Carolina Gamecocks made a run all the way to the Final Four.

The 22-year-old became a household name during March and caused some to believe he boosted his draft stock to move up into the first round of the draft, but that didn’t happen. In fact, Thornwell slipped down to the middle-end of the second round, but he isn’t discouraged in the slightest about where he was selected. He was grateful to be picked period.

“It was cool,” Thornwell said of hearing his name on June 22. “I was just waiting on the moment. Everybody wants that first round call, but only 30 players can get it. It didn’t matter when or where. Just to get called, only 60 players get called, just to be able to get called is a blessing.”

In his summer league debut this past Friday night, Thornwell put on quite the performance with 26 points. He got to the free throw line at will (14-for-18), pulled down five rebounds and recorded a couple of steals.

After playing 32 minutes in the first game, he had his playing time cut down by almost half in Game 2, but again played a huge role defensively. Thus far in Las Vegas, Thornwell says he hasn’t been asked to do anything out of the ordinary by his coaches. His game will speak for itself.

Through the first weekend of Summer League, the Clippers are 2-0 and look to have a great chemistry between their young players. Thornwell believes it’s all because of the right attitude.

“It’s good,” he said of the team camaraderie. “Everybody supports everybody. We don’t have any gunners, any ball-dominant players. Everybody shares the ball so it makes it easy for everybody to come together and play.”

Another one of those teammates that has developed a close relationship with Thornwell is second-year forward Brice Johnson, who has really come into his own with an opportunity so far.

“Sindarius, he’s a hooper man,” Johnson said. “He’s from South Carolina just like I am. I told him, ‘Hey, show ‘em how we do.’ That’s how we do. We go out there and show people how we play. We’ve got some hoopers in the state too, so we just come out there and just try to do what we’ve got to do.”

With his team starting the summer out with back-to-back wins on a fresh start after an offseason of turmoil in Los Angeles, Thornwell is excited to be a part of the new Clipper breed. He’s taking a step back to just breathe in the experience—one that he’s been looking forward to his entire life.

“It’s dope man,” he said. “The best feeling ever, because growing up I watched this every summer. I remember sitting in the living room with my brother talking about, ‘Man, if I got there, I’d be good.’ To finally be out here playing, it’s dope. I’m just embracing the moment and just having fun.”

To this point, that has been quite obvious.

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About Spencer Davies

Spencer Davies

Spencer Davies is an NBA writer based in Cleveland in his first year with Basketball Insiders. Covering the league and the Cavaliers for the past two seasons, his bylines have appeared on Bleacher Report, FOX Sports and HoopsHype.